Nehemiah 2:1-8 - Patience and Planning - Balance

Dr. Steve Viars June 15, 1996 Nehemiah 2:1-8

Read Nehemiah 2:1-10

I. Prayer and Waiting Go Hand in Hand

A very important point to note is the way this chapter begins. Nehemiah is careful to tell us exactly when the events in this chapter took place.

INPUT - Why is that important? (Because we would want to compare it to when the events in chapter one took place to learn how long he had been praying).
When you make this comparison, you find that Nehemiah has been praying for 4-5 months about this matter before this conversation with the king takes place.

So there's a very obvious principle of Godly leadership that flows out of that...Praying and waiting go hand in hand.

A. God wants us to work on patience.
Hebrews 6:12 - ...that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Why is patience an important part of the leadership process?
(Because God was not just building a wall, He was building a man, and ultimately a nation)
Warren Wiersbe wrote:
Three statements in Scripture have a calming effect on me whenever I get nervous and want to rush ahead of the Lord: "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord" (Ex. 14:13), "Sit still...until you know how the matter will turn out" (Ruth 3:18 NKJV), and "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). When you wait on the Lord in prayer, you are not wasting your time, you are investing it. God is preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished. However, when the right time arrives for us to act by faith, we dare not delay."

B. God's timing in a matter is always best.

It's important to note that what Nehemiah was going to be asking the king was a very serious thing. You may remember in our first lesson on the history of this book that we learned that Ezra's group had tried to rebuild the walls once before but were stopped. The king who stopped them was the same one Nehemiah worked for. Essentially, Nehemiah was asking this man to reverse his policy. (READ from Boice, pages 32-33)

There is no question that this particular part of the situation -- that is, changing the king's heart was out of Nehemiah's control. But thankfully,
Pro 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

II Chron. 20:6 - Oh Lord, the God of our Fathers, are thou not God in the heavens? And art thou not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in thy hand so that no one can stand against Thee.

Nehemiah was in a position where he had to trust God's timing in this matter. Now, we're not talking about being entirely passive. INPUT - What could Nehemiah be doing during this time?
1) Continuing to pray.
2) Continuing to grow in his walk with God.
3) Planning for the project (as we'll see in a moment).

But a very important point for all of us to see is that Nehemiah did not fall into the trap of doing something sinful in order to somehow "speed up the process."
INPUT - Since most of us hate to wait, what sinful things might we tempted to do to "speed up" a process that we should leave in the hand of God?

cf. Swindol, p. 33-34 - Principle #1 - (Be sure to balance.)

C. Patient praying serves us well.
INPUT - What do you notice about the prayer of verse 4? (It was very quick!)
We will see a number of "quick prayers" like this in the book. One writer called them prayer grams.
But Nehemiah was surely not in a position to dive on his knees for 30 minutes of prayer. But because he had been faithfully, and patiently praying all along, he didn't need a long prayer right then.
The point is -- patient prayer serves us well because we're not always in a position where we can do much more than what Nehemiah did in this passage.

II. Praying and Planning Go Hand in Hand

Another advantage of Nehemiah having to wait these four months is that he had the time to plan what he would do when/if God chose to move the king's heart.

Warren Wiersbe said, "Not only had Nehemiah prayed for the opportunity, he had planned for it as well."

INPUT - What evidence is there in this passage that Nehemiah had been planning prior to this conversation with the king?
1) Knew how long it would take.
2) Knew he needed letters of safe passage.
3) Asked for supplies.

Pro 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

INPUT - What would have happened had Nehemiah set out on this trip without planning?

(Read from Boice, p. 39)

INPUT - How important is planning in a local church, and why is it important? (Discuss planning for building, school, long-range strategic ministry plan)

cf. Revolutionary War Soldiers - "Trust in God, but keep your powder dry."

INPUT - What do you see at the end of verse 8 that tells us that Nehemiah had the matter of planning in its proper perspective? (And the king granted them unto me because the good hand of my God was upon me.)

Now, since its obvious that God has wonderfully answered Nehemiah's prayer, surely that means that there won't be any opposition, RIGHT?

III. Answered Prayer Does Not Mean There Will Be No Opposition.

Read verses 9-10.

This is going to become a much more significant part of the story as this drama unfolds. But its important to note at this point that often times part of God's answer to prayer does include adversity. And that goes back to what we were saying earlier, that the Lord was not simply building a wall....He is building a man, and ultimately He is building a nation.

INPUT - What is the implication of all of this to the "open doors/closed doors" approach to determining God's will? (Discuss)

INPUT - What principles can we take away from what we've studied today to help us as we work for the Lord?

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video